For a thousand years, Rome enforced the Pax Romana with an iron will and an army of unparalleled strength and cunning. Holding sway over the known world, any opposition force would have to deal with the Roman Legion, the smart bomb of antiquity.
Bob Woodward, in the final chapter of his book, Bush at War, paraphrases our own Caesar as feeling a "visceral hatred for the leader of North Korea... because of my religion or whatever." This comment, attributed by Woodward to George W., came in the midst of a conversation about ridding the world of oppressive and cruel governments. Seizing the opportunity presented by the terrorist attacks of September 11, George has become a man on a mission, a mission from God. Political confrontations are cast in Biblical tones as we align a "coalition of the willing" to attack and defeat the "Axis of Evil."
For a few short years after the defeat of the last Axis of Evil (Germany - Japan - Italy), America found itself in a position similar to the Rome of antiquity. With Europe in ruins, a generation of Russian men killed, and America in sole possession of the ultimate weapon, the world was ours for the remaking. Our ambition then was smaller. We were about the rebuilding of Europe and the pacification of the nations of Germany and Japan (Italy pacified itself with the public hanging of their dictator, Mussolini). Our opportunity to remake the rest of the world, had we visions of a Pax Americana, was circumscribed by Russia's entrance in the nuclear club. The political landscape reverted to its historical state of power balanced against power. Russia ruled the east and America ruled the west, and so it went for 50 years. With Russia's collapse, American power is now balanced only by our good judgment. A judgment tempered by "...religion or whatever." And what better intention can be found than freeing enslaved people? Why shouldn't we act to relieve injustice, free enslaved peoples, rid the world of bandits?
Rome acted not out of altruistic but selfish motivation. They quashed tribes, city-states and nations to preserve their empire and way of life, a way of life enjoyed by a small percentage of the general population. Although we may cloak our actions in moralist fabric, we are acting in our own self-interest. We are setting ourselves against evil not because it is evil but because it threatens us. How many administration spokesmen have we heard tell us, "the world changed on September 11?" We are being told we must act against the Axis of Evil because they threaten us and our way of life. Why we are preparing to wage war is the question posed and answered by our government. The "debate" has been framed by the people proposing the action. A better and more pertinent question is, can we succeed?